Bridget Phillipson MP
Bridget Phillipson MP

Last week in Parliament the Government opposed Labour’s motion to extend free school meals over the holidays.

Many children are growing up in very difficult circumstances – in families with low incomes at a time when jobs across the country are at risk. Over a million children are at risk of going hungry without access to free school meals this Christmas. Therefore, it is essential the Government urgently provides this support, with thousands of families facing a cruel double whammy of incomes and jobs at risk whilst support for children is removed.

I was unable to be present for this vote due to family responsibilities. As a result, I was “paired” with a Conservative MP who also was required to be away from the Commons and who would have voted against, so our votes were in effect cancelled out. Unfortunately, the government has a significant majority and the motion was voted down. If you would like to read more on pairing, you can do so here:

On Question Time last week I challenged the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Nicky Morgan, who could offer little justification for not voting to extend the provision of free school meals beyond an aversion to the fact that it was the Labour Party that forwarded the motion. You can watch that here. I am wholeheartedly committed to ensuring no child goes hungry and will do what I can with my position as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury to urge the Government to re-think its position on this matter.

Since the vote, we have seen the kindness of local business, community groups and individuals stepping up where the Government has failed. It is testament to the generosity of our own community.

Anyone needing support can also contact the Sunderland City Council freephone number between 9am and 5pm every day on 0800 234 6084.

I also pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and others for shining a spotlight on this incredibly important issue. This campaign is not over, and the government must reconsider.

It’s time to perform another U-turn on school meals. Children should not go hungry this Christmas.

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